This is a guest post from Katie Hardy. Katie is a former-New Englander in her 30s who loves football, The Muppets, failing at bookish Pinterest crafts, writing when she should be performing chores around the house, using too many commas, black raspberry ice cream, and making lists. She’s a single mum to two girls who have hit the Teenage and Tweenage Years (send wine), and likes to think of all the associated chaos as a dry-run for her stand-up routine, which is performed weekly at her therapist’s office. She currently lives in North Texas, where she’s working to help turn the state blue before she’s legally allowed to return to her home state of Massachusetts. Follow her on Twitter @Katie_in_MA.
The more I talk about books, the more I’ve discovered that there are People Who Don’t Read, there are People Who Do Read, and then there are Readers. Me? I’m a Reader. Reading is my superpower! I devour books; mow them down like Pac-Man throwing back glowy little nourishing Pac-Dots, trying to squeeze out more reading time while evading responsibilities the way Pac-Man dodges ghosts. And for me, those Power Pellets beckoning from the corner of the screen that will let me torpedo my responsibilities for a while—those suckers are readathons.
Sitting down with a pile of books during readathons has always been restorative for me, and recently I’ve been trying to figure out why.
Is it because my mom would load up my siblings and I when we were little, letting us stuff tote bags full of books at the library each week? That was a party-like affair to be sure. Sometimes she would be “allowed” to keep our family’s only car for these special errands, but more often than not, we’d take the city bus downtown. We’d climb the library’s free-floating stairs (that scared my sister to death) and troop into the giant, second floor children’s room, waving hello to the giant stuffed giraffe as we filed past. Anytime we went out in public, my mom expected our best behavior. She told us over and over that library trips were special. That books were special. We knew those books belonged to a lot of people, and we had to be careful with them. The way my mom drew out the pageantry, maybe that’s why I took my book horde into one quiet hidey-hole or another when I got home and read…and read…and read. Those trips made reading seem like the best kind of treat!
If it wasn’t the library outings that fed my readathons addiction, maybe it was summertime. Growing up, we had School Year Rules, and we had Summer Vacation Rules. As you can imagine, Summer Vacation Rules in our house meant that we were shuttled outside for long portions of the day (hello, child of the ’80s here), but it also meant that house rules were relaxed when we were allowed indoors. The TV stayed on a little bit longer after dinner. Mom was pretty liberal about handing out popsicles (and ice cream cones) after lunch. And although she did still insist on putting us to bed at a decent hour, she wasn’t entirely mean about it—we got to read in bed late into the night. I very nearly said we were allowed to read as late as wanted on those summer nights, and then remembered my mom tip-toeing to my door and “yelling” at me to “Turn off that light!” I’d beg for permission to read one more chapter, just one more! Usually it worked. But little kids aren’t meant to stay up until dawn reading, even in the summer. Which is maybe why now I do so love Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon! Dewey’s doesn’t just “let” you stay up all night reading, they encourage it! They demand it! And I am more than happy to oblige!
My mom wasn’t the only grown-up who liked to indulge my late-night reading habit. Or my sneak-into-a-corner-alone-with-a-book habit. My Girl Scouts leader was an improbable hero of my youth. She was convinced I was also a leader—and sometimes I let her talk me into assuming that role—but really I was happiest when it was just me and Anne running through the White Way of Delight, me and Janie listening to the honey-bees buzz languorously as we drifted in and out of sleep under the peach tree, or me and Trixie Belden solving a case. And Mrs. M. also loved that I was a bookworm, and let me set aside my leader’s mantle and escape into my books. She understood when I’d hide in the folds of the curtain on stage, my book ever-ready. When we got in trouble for shrieking in the middle of the night on one camping trip in particular, Mrs. M. knew the copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was mine.
Going camping with Girl Scouts was always my favorite, and not just because Mrs. M. led us in singing every blessed Girl Scouts song there was. I loved camping because we were allowed to stay up all night, and that meant reading time! I’d bury my stack of books at the bottom of my sleeping bag and pull one out after another. Reading in the middle of the actual woods was glorious! And when we had our winter sleepover in the rec room of the church basement (where our troop met every week), staying up all night with a flashlight while a sea of girls slept around me? That felt like I was getting away with the most devious delights there were. When I was nearly too tired to stay upright the next day, Mrs. M. would pat me on the head and pull me in for a quick hug, and make sure I was still standing. She encouraged the hell out of my self-created readathons; she was proud of them, and proud of me, and I can’t help but think of her every time I read outdoors.
Readathons—for booklovers, they’re often the life-charging stops in the grownup(ish) world that keep us going. It makes me feel like I’m getting away with something. And if you don’t think that energizes me and helps me face the real world, why, then, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you. Readathons: Bring it on.